One of the first gifts we receive on entering the world is a name. With a name, unique to each individual, we are welcomed into a family and the human community. A name, given at birth, conveys the identity and essence of a person and encapsulates the story and purpose of each person’s life.
When we reveal our name to another, we become accessible to them, we are capable of being addressed, known and loved as a person. Even in extreme conditions of inhumanity, such as war, violence and exploitation, a person’s name expresses their identity, their God-given dignity and worth.
One of the astonishing claims of Christianity is that God has a name. God is a divine person with a name, not an anonymous force behind the created world. And this divine name was revealed by God himself.
God’s name is not a human invention, it is revealed in sacred Scripture in the context of God’s encounter with the people of Isra-el. God’s revealed name conveys who God is and gives insight into what we know about God. Most importantly, because God reveals his name, we are capable of knowing, loving and serving God.
In this Sunday’s first reading, we enter into that mysterious event when the divine name is revealed to Moses in the theophany of the burning bush. This extraordinary event takes place on the threshold of the Exodus and the covenant on Sinai. Lent is a perfect time to reflect on what this foundational event in Scripture means for our spiritual journey.
God calls Moses by name. Moses first hears his name as he approaches the burning bush. The encounter of God and humanity is intensely personal because it is an encounter of love. God addresses us as a person with a name, not as an object to be moved by an abstract, benign force.
In God’s awe-inspiring personal presence, we discover both our personal dignity and our insignificance. We become like Moses, who takes off his sandals and veils his face before God’s radiant holiness.
God then reveals to Moses his identity and plans for Israel. He is the God of the fathers of Israel, faithful and compassionate, who remembers and keeps his promises. God is the one who witnesses their affliction and hears their cry of complaint. He comes to rescue them from oppression into a land flowing with milk and honey. Only a divine person could work such redeeming acts; an impersonal force cannot love in this way.
Moses’ encounter with God continues with the revelation of the divine name, “I Am.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that this divine, ineffable name contains the truth that God alone is the fullness of being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. As creatures, we receive all that we are and have from God; for God alone is his very being and exist-ence itself.